My goal every year is to read 100 books, and for the second year in a row - I fell short, stumbling over the finish line at 81 books.
A Grades = 4
B Grades (includes high B-) = 29
C Grades (includes low B-) = 30
D Grades = 7
DNF/Unrated = 10 DNFs, 1 Unrated
Audio Books = 33
Thanks to a long commute and my desire to stay away from inane DJ/radio chatter as much as humanly possible - audio books made up nearly 41% of my total reading in 2016.
Yeah, yeah - numbers blah, blah, blah. What about the good stuff, Wendy? What books did you love in 2016? So glad you asked! Here are the highlights:
Author Of The Year: Simone St. James
I have never, in all my years of blogging, named an "Author of the Year." So why am I doing it for 2016? Because I literally tore through St. James entire backlist (only 5 books, but still!) thanks to the wonders of audio (all quite good - produced by Blackstone Audio) and they all fell within my B Grade range. Keeping that in mind (they were all B's! they were all good!), here they are in my order of favorite to not-as-favorite:
Silence for the Dead (2014) - Desperate heroine falsifies a nursing background to take a job at a remote hospital that treats World War I veterans with "shell shock." A former private estate, the hospital has a dark history that is haunting the dreams of the patients.
The Other Side of Midnight (2015) - Medium heroine is called to investigate the murder of a famous psychic, and former friend, and is reunited with the man who discredited her own abilities.
The Haunting of Maddy Clare (2012) - Heroine working as a temp hires on with a ghost hunter to investigate the ghost of a young woman terrorizing a small English village.
An Inquiry Into Love and Death (2013) - Modern heroine (she's a college student!) finds herself traveling to a remote English village after her uncle dies to settle his affairs. Turns out he was a ghost hunter and there are strange doings afoot.
Lost Among the Living (2016) - After her husband is killed in World War I, the heroine goes to work for his aunt as a paid companion and soon learns there was much about her husband that she never knew.
The Best of the Best (The A Grades)
Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt (2016) was marketed as historical fiction, but features a very strong romance. Doctor heroine is accused of murdering the husband of one of her society lady patients, and circumstances determine the best course of action is to flee - which she does, heading west and ultimately landing in a remote Army outpost in Colorado. It's there she falls in love with a handsome Army captain and her past catches up to her. Caveats being: it doesn't stand alone (book two is due out in May 2017), there's some ugly history, and quite a bit of violence (secondary characters die, there's a brutal Indian raid scene, and there's a rape - so....yeah.) But this book riveted me in a way no other book did in 2016 and the romance totally blew up my skirt.
I dug out Curveball by Charlotte Stein (2013) for the TBR Challenge and this erotic romance novella (roughly 85 pages) was just what the doctor ordered. Plump "nobody" heroine finds herself in the cross-hairs of her brother's loud, boisterous BFF - a more mismatched pair you'll never meet. The anticipation in this story, the passion - it was light years ahead of any other erotic romance I read last year.
2016 will likely go down as The Year of the Gothic for me (see: Simone St. James) as I also took time to reacquaint myself with some Barbara Michaels. I started with Be Buried in the Rain (1985) only remembering that "I really liked it" when I first read it some 25+ years ago. This one is still a gem. Heroine returns to the crumbling family plantation to care for her sour, ailing grandmother and is reunited with a former lover, conducting an archaeological dig on her family's land. Great atmosphere, compelling mystery, an independent heroine and a strong romance.
The Way Home by Megan Chance (1997) was another book I dug out thanks to the TBR Challenge and this historical western knocked my socks off. After the travelling gambler who got her pregnant refuses to marry her, the heroine instead marries his quiet, shy brother - and that's when the romance begins. Heartbreaking, emotional, satisfying on so many levels.
The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward (2015) is the first book in a series about a family that made their fortune in Kentucky bourbon. To be honest, this one didn't work one whit for me as a romance but boy howdy - it's everything I have ever wanted in a unrepentant, trashy soap opera. Double-dealing, back-stabbing, and more skeletons in closets than you can shake a femur at. This is Grade A Beach Read material all the way.
Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen (2015) is a stand-alone time slip thriller, with part of the story taking place in World War II era Italy, and the other in present day Boston. When the violinist heroine fears her toddler daughter has become possessed by a piece of music she brought home from a work trip to Italy, she sets out to uncover the story behind the manuscript. Quiet, haunting, and heartbreaking.
All I Am by Nicole Helm (2016) features a socially awkward wounded warrior hero and a party girl heroine aimlessly drifting through her life. I'm a sucker for virgin hero and "bad girl" heroine pairings in romances, and Helm has written a charming one.
And those were my highlights in reading for 2016. It wasn't the best reading year on record for me, and I struggled to find my mojo all year long, but there were still plenty of highlights to be found. Now it's onward and upward into 2017.